Is the Dutch Oven the Most Useful Tool in the Kitchen?

The Dutch oven may be the most useful of kitchen tools. With this versatile cookware, you can cook in any style, whether roasting, braising, frying, or baking. Are you lovin’ your Dutch oven? Let’s explore the origins of this pot and get inspired with 6 recipes. 

These cast iron workhorses can be used on the stovetop to make a soup or stew, or in the oven to roast a chicken or bake bread. With their high sides, they can also serve as deep fryers. Sturdy cast iron heats up evenly and holds heat well. These are some of the reasons the Dutch oven is so beloved by cooks.

teddy-kelley-88356-unsplash Cast IronThe Dutch oven has been in use for hundreds of years around the world. A cook in Colonial America used a cast-iron version with feet that could be placed directly into a fireplace, above the ashes, with a concave lid to hold hot coals. With the heat coming from all directions, the Dutch oven acted as the first convection cooker. Cooking in those massive hearths was a serious business, and the resilient cast iron pots could withstand direct contact with open flame. For that reason, cast-iron Dutch ovens are often used for camping and outdoor cooking today.

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Le Creuset is perhaps the best-known brand for quality Dutch ovens.

A fancier version is the enameled “cocotte,” popularized by Le Creuset, which was established in the north of France in 1925 by a Belgian iron-casting expert and a master enameler. Their first sturdy, non-stick cocotte was made in flame orange – still the iconic color for Le Creuset, which has expanded the line to include dozens of colors (and sometimes even branded partnerships like this one with the Star Wars franchise). The colorful enamel finishes make them durable and attractive, but they may not be able to withstand the higher temperatures that bare cast iron can. Still, these beautiful pots will last forever, and many consider them heirlooms to be passed to the next generation.

Why is it Called a Dutch Oven?

Only Americans call the pot a Dutch oven.  It is said that in the early 18th century, an Englishman saw the metal sand-casting technique in Holland and brought it back home, to adapt and patent in 1708. This allowed a smoother finish to the iron than the existing clay molds did. As production in England grew, the cast-iron pots made their way around the world, especially to the new colony in what would become the United States.

It is said that Dutch traders brought these new pots to the colonies and they inspired the name, not the origins of the manufacturing technique.

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Dutch ovens are also great for baking rustic boules, or no-knead bread.

Six Recipes to Make in a Dutch Oven

Since you can make just about anything in a Dutch oven, where should you start? Try one of our recipes below.

Oven-Braised Guinea Hen

In this easy recipe, guinea hen is braised with herbs, root vegetables, and fortified stock. A quick blast of heat at the end of cooking crisps the skin.

braised guinea hen hi res

Braised Lamb with Tarbais Beans & Pistou

Beans and Dutch ovens are the perfect pair. For this easy recipe, slow-cooked lamb and creamy, white Tarbais beans are accented with fresh basil pistou. It’s a whole new level of comfort food.

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Duck with Green Picholine Olives

When you want to break duck legs down to fork-tenderness, you need a Dutch oven. This easy braised duck recipe from Chef Daniel Boulud features French Picholine olives for juicy bites of tart, salty flavor.


Poulet Chasseur

This classic recipe of braised chicken with bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, and wine is our favorite kind of comfort food – hearty and satisfying, yet quick and easy enough for a weeknight.


Dutch Baby Pancake with Candied Bacon

Your brunch dreams of made of this. Our ridiculously easy-to-make Dutch baby recipe is part-pancake, part-custard, part-souffle, and totally delicious. Did we mention the candied bacon?


Ropa Vieja with Maduros

Our outside skirt steak is slowly braised with peppers, onion, tomato, and plenty of aromatics in this classic Cuban beef recipe. Fried sweet plantains are the perfect accompaniment.


What are your favorite things to cook in a Dutch oven? Tell us in the comments!

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